GOTHENBURG, Sweden - Beginning July 1 in Brussels, Volvo Car Corp. plans to test a program that will allow customers to order a vehicle from the factory on the Internet.
It is believed to be the first time a manufacturer will permit customers to complete a sale on the Internet rather than through a dealership. Other manufacturers allow customers to order vehicles on the Internet and get pricing and financing information. But they must go to a dealership to buy the car.
In the United States, Volvo Cars of North America Inc. will offer a similar program, although customers must close the deal through a dealer.
In the Brussels experiment, customers will be able to order a vehicle and obtain financing and insurance rates.
Delivery will take three to four weeks.
Hans-Olov Olsson, Volvo's market area president for Europe, said that during the first phase of the program, customers must pick up their vehicles at a dealership. He said customers eventually will be able to specify home or factory delivery.
A similar program, called 'Volvo Net,' will debut in the United States on the same date.
Customers will be able to configure their vehicles on the Internet and obtain insurance through Volvo's U.S. insurance partner, Liberty Mutual Insurance Group of Boston.
However, they will not be able to close the deal with the factory. Volvo will refer consumers to dealerships, said Jenny Genosa, interactive marketing manager for Volvo in the United States. As in Europe, Volvo will explore home delivery during the second phase of the U.S. program.
Volvo wants to increase sales in North America and Europe. With a new S80 model coming this fall, the company is looking for niches, such as the Internet experiment, to attract customers.
In Europe, the company plans to cut its total of 1,000 dealers by 25 to 30 percent by 2000, giving the remaining dealers larger territories.